Other than dedicated media watchers, readers in the United States will be at best only dimly aware of the “phone-hacking” scandal surrounding the News of the World, the UK Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, and said to be the most widely read newspaper in the English-speaking world.
Well, you’ll be hearing a bit more about it over the next few days, as it’s been announced that the paper – known colloquially as the “News of the Screws” on account of its predilection for reporting on sex scandals involving politicians and celebrities – will close after this Sunday’s edition is published.
The hacking scandal has dogged the paper for years. In 2007 a reporter and private investigator were jailed for hacking into the voicemail messages of aides to Prince William (the one who just got married). But that was just the beginning. A steady drip of hacking revelations continued to plague the NoW; News International paid out damages to several victims including actress Sienna Miller and British politicians and sports personalities, and Andy Coulson who was editor of the NoW at the time the original offenses were committed, was forced to resign his position as communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron. (For those interested there’s a Q&A on the affair here, and massive coverage on all UK news sites.)
Things came to a head in the last couple of days with revelations that the jailed private investigator had also hacked the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl – while police were still searching for her, and before it was known she was dead. The final straw came this morning when it emerged that families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan had likely also been victims of hacking.